Small convoys of partially driverless lorries will be trialled on major British roads by the end of next year, the government has announced.
A contract has been awarded to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to carry out the tests of vehicle “platoons”.
Up to three lorries will travel in formation, with acceleration and braking controlled by the lead vehicle.
The TRL will begin trials of the technology on test tracks, but these trials are expected to move to major roads by the end of 2018.
The lead vehicle in the platoons will be controlled by a human driver and humans will also control the steering in lorries to the rear – though acceleration and braking will be mirrored.
Lorries driving close together could see the front vehicle pushing air out of the way, making the other vehicles more efficient and lowering their emissions.
This could lead to fuel savings for companies that will hopefully be passed on to consumers, Transport Minister Paul Maynard said.
The government has been promising such a project since at least 2014. Last year it announced its intention to carry out platooning trials but was later frustrated after some European lorrymakers declined to participate.
The TRL has announced its partners for the project:
- DAF Trucks, a Dutch lorry manufacturer
- Ricardo, a British smart tech transport firm
- DHL, a German logistics company
Transport Minister Paul Maynard said platooning could lead to cheaper fuel bills, lower emissions and less congestion.
“But first we must make sure the technology is safe and works well on our roads, and that’s why we are investing in these trials,” he said.